When my niece was three, we were camping in Big Bear, California for the weekend. She is the first born of all of my and my sister's kids so the first things I learned about parenting a small child really came from watching my sister parent my niece.
On this particular weekend, we did one of those things that are quintessential to camping- we made s'mores over the campfire. My niece had never had a s'more or a marshmallow before. She was excited. We helped her hold the stick and roast the marshmallow, but when it came time to actually eat the marshmallow, she refused.
We did all the things adults do in this situation. We described how delicious a roasted marshmallow was. We told her how good it would taste. That she would love it if she just tried it. But, she wasn't buying it. She did not want to eat that marshmallow.
So my sister took the marshmallow and pushed it into her protesting mouth and told her to chew. I looked at my sister in surprise. How could she just make her eat it? But then that sweet little girl with the blonde curls and bright hazel eyes began to taste the marshmallow and through sticky marshmallow face, she smiled and said something like, "That was good!"
My sister's philosophy was- if I don't push her to try it, she will miss out on something great!
My sister and my niece (now 17 years old) were here visiting recently and a situation came up where my niece wasn't quite sure she wanted to participate. My sister pushed her, knowing that my niece would end up having a great time. She did have a great time and my sister looked at me and said, "Just eat the marshmallow." I laughed, knowing just what she was talking about.
I realized that Hottie Husband and I use the "Just Eat the Marshmallow" parenting philosophy all the time. We push our kids to try things, to experience life to the fullest, to be brave. We made sure they could swim by age two or three, even if they screamed the first two days of my lessons. We recently took them out on the lake and taught them to wakeboard. Once they got up, we encouraged them- go out of the wake! They shook their head at us- NO WAY! But once they did it, they were proud of themselves. Smiling. Having a blast.
Sometimes you watch parents push their kids and it makes you cringe because it just doesn't look fair to the kid. But, I think that sometimes you have to make them "Just Eat the Marshmallow" because most of the time they will overcome whatever is stopping them and look at you and say...
That taste's really good!